Self-care superstition and celebrations.
Does art have rituals?
And what kind of rites do artists follow?
Social rituals are often at the antipodes of an artist’s life.
Holidays, weddings, celebrations are rarely part of the life of an artist who we usually know as anti-social, non-conformist and rebellious.
However, every artist somehow has a routine that makes his/her talent feel closer and through which he can express himself better.
Art routines can be truly amazing.
A color to avoid, a workout to do, something to drink, where to sit, what time to create.
These are all small personal rituals that are essential to an artist’s life and work.
The structure of every ritual of an artist, is repetition.
Having found the personal formula, each artistic act needs certain specific steps to happen.
So reading the habits, quirks and rituals of artists, takes us inside their artistic world and teaches us new ways of looking at their works.
For me it means learning the human and spiritual side of the artist but also the pleasure of discovering rituals that I can copy or make my own.
In my own small way, when I write, I very often come up with the title while in the shower. I don’t really think about it consciously and I don’t even know if I will write that day.
A title appears to me, I mark it in a notebook and then from there I start thinking about the story, which could be a short story, a poem, an illustration or a painting.
Rituals are part of our habits, but unlike habits that we often can no longer identify as such, rituals are well-defined steps that we voluntarily take before a creative act.
We are aware of what we are about to do and we do it for the strangest reasons: to find focus, to relax from stress, to seek solutions to complicated ideas.
The discipline of ritual recharges us with energy and makes us ready to create.
Because I will never get tired of saying it, making art, creating art objects, requires great concentration and energy and discipline is at the heart of it all.
Meditation as a creative ritual.
Many contemporary artists practice meditation and are very strict in their choice of food.
Caring for the body and soul are prerequisites for the best creative performance.
Georgia O’ Keeffe herself, one of the greatest artists in the world, believed a lot in food as medicine for the body and had a garden from which she drew the raw material to feed herself.
A short time ago the recipes of O’Keeffe, a pioneer of organic cooking, were collected in a book.
Compared to the old concept of the “damned artist“, today’s artists take great care of their bodies and minds and practice yoga, meditation, and Ayurvedic breathing.
They also take care of what they eat and no longer tie talent to a dissolute and stressful life. They no longer recognize the consummation of body and life as a prerequisite for genius.
There are artists who meditate in the best known forms and others who use small gestures as ritual moments to regain artistic energy and concentration.
Small gestures and numbers that bring bad luck or good luck.
Yoko Ono discovered that lighting a match and watching the flame go out in a dark room gave her a sense of relief. And that repeated gesture, in addition to instilling calm and concentration, became a performance called the Lighting Piece.
A fortuneteller told Coco Chanel that the number five would bring her luck and she, in addition to creating the famous perfume, presented her fashion show every year on May 5, the fifth day of the fifth month of the year.
Gustav Mahler was terrified of the number nine, he thought that many musicians after composing their ninth symphony were destined to die.
James Joyce, born 2/2/1882, published his Ulysses on February 2, 1922. He believed throughout his life that the number two was a good luck charm.
Haruki Murakami runs every morning before writing. For him, sport is serious because it helps him relax and concentrate.
He gets up at 4 am and goes to bed at 9 pm.
This discipline keeps him elastic in mind and body, helps him untangle his thoughts and get the best out of his talent.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez before he started writing read newspapers every day. His writing was deeply rooted in reality our being so surreal.
Many artists find relaxation and concentration in knitting, like actress Lupita Nyong’o.
Louisa May Alcott, used to put a so-called “mood pillow” on the couch at home that was used to let her family know if she was writing and didn’t want to be disturbed.
Writer Colette never wrote in the morning but preferred to take a walk with the dog first.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, but like her many artists (I curse myself when I forget), kept pen and paper on her bedside table for any thoughts, phrases and illuminations given by dreams.
J.K.Rowling has to completely finish the book before writing the title.
Joan Didion sleeps with the book she is finishing in the same room.
Marie Curie slept with a jar of radium next to her bed.
Many artists always write in the same room, or always in a hotel, like Maya Angelou.
Charles Dickens always slept facing north because he thought it enhanced his creativity. A compass he always carried with him helped him always find north.
Margareth Bourke-White, slept and wrote outdoors. She had adapted a piece of garden furniture for it. She said that the sky influenced her writing.
In contrast, Marcel Proust wrote only in bed, in the half-light of his soundproof room.
A color that in tradition does not bring good luck to theater artists.
Purple is the color of the sacred vestments used during Lent. In the Middle Ages were banned in that period, all types of theatrical performances and public shows that were held in the streets or squares of the city.
This involved for the actors and for all those who lived of only theater considerable discomforts. Not being able to work, the theater companies did not even have the means to procure their daily bread, and they were forced to tighten their belts.
This is the reason why the color purple is hated by all artists, in general, but it is forbidden especially in the theater where with the passage of centuries has become a real superstition.
Some conclusions on rituals.
The routines adopted by artists of any discipline, tell us that every great work has behind it a series of very precise acts but above all that every artist has the need to find a balance between the idea and its realization.
There is no such thing as an extemporaneous creative act.
To us it may seem so, but behind that speed there is a precise process of superstitions, rituals, practices and superstitions that have settled over time.
Everything is linked and holds together but it is also extremely personal.
There are artists who write only during the day because they feel they can express their talent better and others who do it only at night.
Those who only have to drink one drink while writing and those who only have to eat one particular food.
It’s part of every artist’s neurosis and fragility.
For each of us, it’s about finding our own ritual and making it our own and if it doesn’t work, changing it.
But the basis always remains discipline, study and application.
Ritual and superstition are just the icing on the cake.